This is the first article in a series highlighting the candidates for Waco City Council in the run up to the Nov. 3 election.
By Shea Berthelot | Contributor
Though Halloween is days away, the thing that most Americans are frightened and excited for actually comes on Nov. 3. The outcome of presidential, house and senate elections is a mix of emotions for the average American, but the everyday issues that face Waco and Baylor most often are addressed by the city council.
“Voter turnout is ‘far lower’ in local elections than in federal elections or state level elections,” Bernard Fraga, assistant professor of political science at Indiana University in Bloomington, told the Chicago Tribune.
Whether it is because Americans don’t know the candidates or don’t always have the ability to vote straight party on them, many Americans don’t cast local ballots or leave the local races blank on their tickets. What could also be contributing to the low turnout is that Baylor residents registered in McLennan County are not here for the typically scheduled May elections for the Waco mayor and city council members.
Josh Borderud, director of clinical programs at Baylor Law, is running to represent District Three on the Waco City Council. Borderud has leadership experience as the chair of the Zoning Board of Adjustments, Waco Plan Commission and the Capital Improvement Advisory Committee.
The three-time Baylor alumnus (bachelors and masters degrees in history and a J.D.) also serves on the board of the Heart of Texas Region MHMR (the local mental health authority) and the Waco McLennan County Bar Association. He was appointed by outgoing council member John Kinnaird to the Animal Welfare Advisory Board and worked closely with former Mayor Malcolm Duncan Jr. to renovate the local animal shelter and made spaying, neutering, and microchipping the animals in the shelter mandatory, as well as obtaining a “no-kill” status for the shelter.
Borderud began getting plugged into local policy some time ago serving as a legal adviser to the Milam County judge. As a Baylor law school faculty member he “[supervises] law students serving veterans, first responders and children through our clinical legal education programs.”
Borderud believes his uniqueness lies in experience. He said it “makes [him] the most qualified candidate.”
“I have been serving on boards and commissions since 2012 and have served with two members of the city council on the Plan Commission before they were elected to the city council. Given my experience, my learning curve on city council will not be great.” Borderud said.
As Waco’s District Three city councilman, he wants to continue focusing on economic development and encourage businesses to come to Waco similar to the Amazon facility soon to be in his home district. Race equity and the work of Prosper Waco (a local non-profit) are also important to him.
“As the past president of the Austin Avenue Neighborhood Association, I care deeply about neighborhoods and would like to get their input before making decisions on zoning and development,” Borderud said.
He stated these as policies Wacoans can look forward to if elected.
Josh Borderud said he believes that his work as a lawyer has led him to “appreciate the power of cooperation and persuasion.”
“I hope to be able to work well with the current council and will work to convince them that my priorities would benefit all Wacoans,” Borderud said.
As far as advice for Baylor Bears, he asks not only students but faculty and staff to “look carefully at the nonpartisan races on the ballot — city council and school boards — and to do their homework on those races not usually on the November ballot.”
Rick Allen, Waco City Council Candidate, business owner and former council member, has been an active participant in the Waco community for upwards of 20 years. He has served on commissions and city, nonprofit and professional boards working with large multimillion-dollar budgets for over 20 years. He was also president of Habitat for Humanity Waco, already served as a city council member and he is a bed and breakfast owner of 24 years with his wife.
Allen has experience managing finances and decision making skill when it comes to managing money in these various positions. He was on city council for “the greatest bond election we had in the history of Waco.”
“I served on city council for those years when there was lots of activity, lots of spending, lots of budgeting decisions, and that’s what we’re going to be experiencing now,” Allen said.
He discussed working with the county and Waco ISD more closely and said that his experience will help him to make Waco successful in this new “post-COVID” age we will be moving into economically.
Allen has worked with private and nonprofit builders through the city council on veterans’ housing, and he is the three-time president of the Sanger Heights Neighborhood association.
“I bring all those experiences working with housing and all the multilayered decisions that must be made appropriately and neither of [my opponents] have those experiences.”
He also mentioned that he and his opponents had met for multiple Zoom meetings, and said he is “totally impressed with the quality of my opponents.”
“I believe all of us want the best thing for District Four and the city of Waco,” Allen said.
Allen’s campaign also places a high priority on the opinions of his constituents.
“As soon as I get on council, I will be calling for a Zoom District Four meeting to hear from as many different people and as many district constituencies in District Four as we can have — and I will make my decisions based upon their wants.”
Allen has practiced advocacy full time for the past 5 years and works currently to call for the rights of the LGBTQ community as well as on civil rights issues. He also works to advocate for suicide prevention and for veterans’ rights. Allen said his experience as an advocate will help when trying to implement policy ideas on the Waco City Council.
“I know how to be heard,” Allen said. There are “skills anyone can learn, but you don’t necessarily know them when you just get out of college. You have to learn them over and over and over again, and I know from what people tell me that I’m really good at listening and talking.”
In regards to name recognition, Allen said “signs are not important. Reality is what is important.” He warned prospective voters that a presence on Twitter or large amounts of signs around the city and district does not measure a person’s ability to govern. Their history does.